The Three Things
"Three things..." I look over at Dan as my voice trails off.
His eyes dart upwards and he begins to twirl his fingertips against one another, thinking. "Eating dinner with you," he says, then pauses. Thirty seconds pass. "Watching Mad Men. The rain--running in the rain."
I steal a glance at his face, sure of what will come next. "And you?" he asks.
"Mmmm," I murmur. "Bright, cheerful spaces...with lots of natural light." I too hesitate and bring my fingernail to my lips as I search for my other two. "Figuring out and preparing meals that people really enjoy." Another pause. "And that you still humor me with this exercise." I let out a contended half-sigh, half-laugh.
Early when Dan and I began dating, I asked Dan to name three things he loved. I am not sure what exactly prompted my suggestion--whether I had stumbled across the tip in a magazine article or on a talk show segment on icebreakers or conjured up the idea completely on my own. It of course was one of those obnoxious, cutesy, predictable, I'm-fishing-for-a-compliment-and-at-the-same-time-wanting-to-dig-up-secrets- and-other-useful-information-about-you-so-I-can-appear-thoughtful-when-I-surprise-you-with-concert-tickets-to-see-your-favorite-band kinds of questions, and I knew it, but that did not stop me from bringing it up repeatedly.
What initially invited cheesy, superficial answers--"Reese's" and "spending time with you"--morphed into a means of fostering genuine, soulful connection. I learned about Dan's likes but also his desires and dreams, his prayers, the unique and intricate, delicate wiring beneath his ROTC dress blues and faded polo shirts, what made him tick, what made him live and move and feel and breathe and be. We examined our lives with a fine-toothed comb, turning the day's events over and over again in our minds as we searched for locales of our gratitude. Forbidden from resurrecting a "love" already mentioned, we looked for nuance. "Fresh summertime strawberries" became "savoring locally grown, seasonal produce, all the more sweeter because it came from the farmers market where we know the farmer;" "family" evolved into "the safe, protected feeling found only in the presence of loved ones."
We have not engaged in the exercise much recently. I realize that when I stop sharing my encounters with creation's blessings to others, I stop recognizing them almost entirely. I need to remember to laugh, to smile, to give thanks, to praise, to savor, to rejoice, to love expansively, deeply, and with relish. When Dan comes home, I will ask him his three things, and when I call my mother later, I will share several of my joys and loves. In the email update I next write to a circle of faraway friends, I must remember to return to our habit of listing five things for which we are grateful. And tonight I will fall asleep delighting in and detailing the rich, abundant world the Creator has given me to enjoy and share with others.
But until then, my three things:
1. The internet--how fast and easily information can spread!
2. Individuals who enter our lives very temporarily but reach out and seek relationship nonetheless
3. Sipping on a large mug of coffee early in the morning, the whole day still brimming with possibility